The Fellowship of Prayer
Turning to God in prayer encourages the public and our children to rely on our God for all matters–those within our control and those outside.
In the early 2010s, Sis. Mary Kay and I participated in a wonderful Bible class in Southern Orange County, CA. The class was comprised of brothers and sisters from several ecclesias in the general area. After a few years, we prayerfully concluded we had sufficient resources to lead public seminars in the area.
The reception to the advertisements was highly encouraging, and we were greatly blessed with students. It was common to have as many as 70 attendees, with follow-on classes drawing a dozen or more. By the grace of God, two lovely sisters were baptized from this effort.
One of the students in the class, John, invited us to his community church to speak to his pastor about delivering the Learn to Read the Bible Effectively seminar for his congregation. This development brought us great joy, as his church had over 500 members. What happens if we take the seminar to a group of that size? The prospects were exciting.
The only time we could meet with the pastor was on a Wednesday night when his congregation held its monthly prayer meeting. I went, hopeful that this might be a watershed event in our preaching. I found the meeting itself very curious. The congregation broke into groups of about a dozen, spoke about specific prayer needs, then joined hands and prayed, with each person contributing to the prayer if they chose. Special prayers were also offered at the front of the room for those who wished their prayer needs to be kept confidential. In that case, an elder of the church prayed with the one or two people who had the prayer request.
When the meeting was ending, John asked me to come to the front to meet the pastor. He was an engaging man, probably about ten years younger than me. He asked about the seminar and what its intentions were. Then he asked me what my biggest concern was about the seminar.
I paused momentarily, then said we get large groups to come, but few stay through the entire educational process. He shared he had a similar experience and reminded me that the Lord Jesus drew large crowds, but in the end, most fell away, too.
Here’s the part I will never forget. With only me and him at the side of the room, he asked if I would like him to pray for me and our seminars. Together, we stood facing each other, heads bowed and hands on each other’s shoulders, praying to God for the success of the outreach.
Prayer is real and powerful
To be honest, I felt a bit uncomfortable at first. It was different, maybe even a little too intimate. But as I thought about it while driving home that evening, I realized that this was exactly what we needed to do more often in our ecclesias. I learned an important lesson that evening.
By the way, the seminar was never an option with John’s church. But the experience was most profitable.
Christadelphians and Prayer
Harry Whittaker had strong opinions in his book, Reformation, about Christadelphians and prayer. He stated that if we were honest, we would have to admit that we aren’t a “praying” community. Maybe you feel his opinion was extreme? However, if someone asked you to describe our community to a new friend, you might select our commitment to Bible study or our lay clergy. But prayer might not be one of our top defining features.
Baptist minister Charles Spurgeon wrote, “A prayerful church is a powerful church.” No doubt this is true. When we read about the core activities of the first-century church, prayer was always mentioned (Acts 1:14, 2:42, 12:12).
Paul reached out to ecclesias and individuals to “help together by prayer for us.” (2 Cor 1:11). He appealed to the Roman Ecclesia to “strive together with me in your prayers.” (Rom 15:30). Praying along with Paul was seen as entering into the actual work, not a side activity. The Apostle concluded his last visit to Ephesus with an emotional “kneeling down” and praying with them all. When the ecclesia prayed together over their deep concern for Peter and John, who were in prison, the “place was shaken,” and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 4:31)
In our formal method of worship on Sundays, each prayer has a targeted purpose. We pray in thanks over the bread or wine. We pray for God to bless our memorial service. We petition God’s comfort for the sick and needy. It is rare when we organize prayer outside of our routine. I have observed that many feel uncomfortable with prayers where hands are held or done outside of the normal worship service. It is so rare that it seems like a novelty when it does happen.
Yet, in Scripture, we have many examples of prayers made with groups of people for unique situations. Imagine the impact for the disciples of listening to Jesus pray to his Father the words of John 17. Or try to picture what it was like when Solomon gathered all of Israel to pray and dedicate the temple. These were unforgettable moments, such prayers united believers in fellowship, fusing them in purpose and spirit.
I remember several Truth Corps experiences over the years where we completed the day’s work in a “prayer circle.” After discussing the day’s events, the joy, and the disappointments, we would hold hands and take turns contributing to the prayer. These prayers brought a certain dedication to our work and helped us to feel closer and more connected to our God.
Fellowship of Prayer
On an individual level, we are truly seeking an unbroken fellowship with our Lord Jesus. We want to have him involved in all aspects of our lives. We want his guidance on our big decisions, but we also know there is no issue too small for our prayers. A mistake I have made is thinking that I mainly needed to pray for the big things I couldn’t control or had little idea of how to address. It seemed disingenuous to pray for guidance on things that I already felt I had the answers to!
But then I was re-reading A Life of Jesus by Melva Purkis. Specifically, his comments about the fish catch, recorded in Luke 5, struck me. Peter was happy to accept the Lord as his spiritual leader and rabbi. No man had spoken words like him. But when Jesus instructed him to let down the nets after a terribly frustrating night where they caught no fish, I suppose the experienced fisherman must have doubted this carpenter could tell Peter much about his trade. Let’s let Bro. Purkis summarize the learning here:
Peter was willing to acknowledge the leadership of his new master in spiritual paths, but surely Jesus had nothing to teach him in his daily tasks. Ah, Peter, how wrong you are! How wrong is every disciple who fails to acknowledge Jesus as the Master of every walk of life and every place of experience. Unless our surrender is complete, we shall toil all night and catch nothing.1
We are invited to include our God in all areas of our lives. When we are around a conference table at work, and we hear inappropriate language, we can pray to God that he will guard our lips and strengthen us not to participate or even laugh. We can take it to the LORD when we feel anxiety over a jury summons. When we are struggling with raising our children, we ask the LORD to give us peace of mind and grant us wisdom.
prayer strengthens fellowship
Prayer as Witness
Have you noticed how often, after a major tragedy, people gather together for a vigil to pray? Often these are televised events where the grieved family receives support from the community. Obviously, this has a comforting effect on the family, which has been swallowed up with sorrow.
I wonder if we might consider public prayer as a way to petition God on an issue and as outreach in the community. In the US in 2020, there were public outcries over blatant social justice violations, such as with George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis. As a community, we debated our role when we see such injustice. Should we join in the protests? Should we refrain? Was it appropriate for us to do nothing? Some brothers and sisters felt conflicted that they were not speaking out against injustice.
prayer has great value to the believer
What if we saw such troubling events as an opportunity to publicly demonstrate how we take our concerns to God in prayer? What if we announced that we would be meeting at the local City Hall to lead prayers for a stricken family? Or to offer a prayer for those abused as well as the police? Currently, the world around us is deeply concerned about the war in Israel and the potential for an expanded military event. Should we advertise in the local paper that we will be meeting at a public park to unite in prayer for the peace of Israel and the Palestinian people?
Turning to God in prayer and inviting others to join us demonstrates to the public something different from our doctrine-oriented seminars and outreach programs. Since we truly believe praying to our God is the most important activity, it models turning to our God for intervention and comfort. It also encourages the public and our children to rely on our God for all matters–those within our control and those outside.
Summary of Prayer Series
This article concludes our year-long review of some aspects of prayer.
Bro. David Lloyd encouraged us to use an informal way of spending time with our God regularly.
Bro. Darren Tappouras challenged us to understand what issues we can have complete confidence that God guarantees He will answer. Prayer is real and powerful, and God is at work in our lives today. The focus of God’s activities in our lives is in the arena of the “inner being,” which we review daily.
Bro. Dev Ramcharan exhorted us that prayer has great value to the believer, bringing real benefits to those who regularly make it part of their life.
Bro. Robert Prins described the six-month prayer challenge as a useful effort by ecclesias wishing to raise their spiritual dedication and reliance on God.
Bro. Shane Kirkwood examined the prayer life of Jesus Christ and the powerful lessons we can learn from his example.
Bro. Shawn Moynihan discussed the tangible benefits of praying for others and how it strengthens fellowship and changes our view of each other.
Finally, Bro. Duncan Kenzie looked at the intimacy of our relationship with God and how we are encouraged to approach Him as our loving Father.
We do hope you have enjoyed this series. Prayer life is an effective measure of our spiritual life. May we all draw closer to our Heavenly Father, thanking our Lord Jesus Christ, who has enabled us to “draw near with a full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Heb 10:22).
- Purkis, Melva, A Life of Jesus, The Christadelphian, 404 Shaftmoor Lane, Hall Green, Birmingham, UK, 1964.